Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Reggae Belongs to Jamaica

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Clyde McKenzie
Doctors Paula Daley-Morris (left) and Sonjah Stanley-Niaah at Rebel Salute 2015
Reggae Veteran Big Youth (left) and Headline Entertainment's boss, Jerome Hamilton.

Perhaps the question of whether or not Reggae music belongs to Jamaica is exhausted, but once again, it was the topic of discussion at a recent symposium held at the Bob Marley Museum.

As persons gathered recently to celebrate the birthday of the legendary Bob Marley, one of Reggae's greatest, Jamaica's stamp on the genre was once again questioned. This time however, the panelists involved in the discussion urged Jamaicans, especially those within the music fraternity, to stop questioning who owns reggae and focus instead on how to capitalise on the exposure the music receives when artistes from other countries produce reggae songs.

Music industry veteran, Clyde McKenzie, expressed the view that Jamaica should not seek to control Reggae music, as its reach is far beyond the island's borders.

"Should we in Jamaica really seek to control reggae?" he questioned. "We have not controlled the most lucrative part of our value production for years now. Our artistes have done great, but we have not been able to extract the greatest value from our music, others have been able to do that far better than us."

He used the recent naming of Joss Stone as Billboard's reggae artiste of the year to drive home his point.

"She was named the reggae artiste of the year because of her album sales, but many people did not pay that much attention, instead they focused more on the fact that she was named reggae artiste of the year," he said.

"Now, we have to get rid of the notion that reggae is sacrilegious and that others are imposing on it. We need to appreciate and understand that when the Joss Stones of this world perform our music [we can] capitalise on the exposure they bring."

He went on to say that while it is important that Jamaica claim that the music was created here, the country does not need to seek control of the music.

"Yes we need to let the world know that reggae music started here, but we don't need to control the spaces in which the music is played and where it goes."

Jerome Hamilton of Headline Entertainment agreed.

"The strength of the music is why we now have to question whether we own it or not because the music is now global," he explained, saying that when reggae first began, those involved in the music were never thinking of owning it and therein lies the current dilemma.

"Those from the earlier days in the industry were never thinking of owning reggae. They were just doing the music because they enjoyed it while others saw it as more than just something that made them feel good and that's why back then, there were so many pirates and so many artistes were robbed of their royalties. As a people, we have never claimed the music with any forwardthinking that makes it our own. A lack of knowledge prevented us from going further with the music and other countries were happy to explore areas we were unable to."

Dr Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, used statistics gathered from a recent research to show just how much of reggae Jamaica really 'owns'. Though she made her presentation before Hamilton, her research seamlessly supported his point of just how much other countries were able to explore the reach of reggae music. Her study of reggae festivals across the globe revealed that Jamaica reaps very little financial benefits from the music when compared to other countries. According to her statistics, there are more than 400 reggae festivals across the globe and only a small number of those are held in Jamaica, and when compared to other festivals across the globe (like the Rototom Sunsplash held in Spain) the ones held in Jamaica are small scale festivals and the earnings from the festivals held in Jamaica pale in comparison to that earned from festivals in other countries. "There is no event in Jamaica of the magnitude of Rototom Sunsplash which is held in Spain. There is very little financial benefit for Jamaica as it relates to reggae music, so do we really want to claim that we own reggae," she questioned.